The engagement session: While these pretty, pre-wedding photo shoots may have initially seemed like a passing trend, they're clearly here to stay. For some couples, the idea of posing for these intimate photos can elicit fear and tension, but there are only upsides to having a mini-session before the big day. We asked Southern California husband-and-wife photographers Emily and Justin of Chaffin Cade Photography for the scoop on what it takes to have a successful engagement session. Here, they share the five things they want their couples to know before taking engagement portraits.
First, you should absolutely have an engagement session.
If not for a beautiful collection of professional photos of you and your husband-to-be that don't involve a wedding dress and tux, then plan an engagement session to be comfortable on the big day. "Your photographers get a chance to photograph you without the stress of the wedding day and a hundred people around," Emily and Justin explain. "As photographers, we get to see how you are in front of the camera and what you're comfortable with."
Understand the timeline.
Emily and Justin suggest scheduling an engagement session anywhere from six to eight months before your wedding date. While the best time of year for a session depends on where you live (Emily and Justin shoot in California and offer sessions year-round), time of day is a no-brainer. "Two hours before sunset, hands down," Emily says. "This is where the sun is most flattering and you get a gorgeous sky without harsh shadows. And as you get towards the end of your shoot you get golden, warm rays that fill your images."
Make the day about you.
"The most beautiful photos are the most personal ones," Emily says of her sessions. For some couples, she and Justin like to plan an activity, but for others simply setting up in a beautiful destination is enough. She and Justin love when couple's bring tokens that help tell the story of them. Family heirlooms, meaningful gifts, or love notes all add an extra dimension to your photos.
Photo: [Chaffin Cade Photography](http://chaffincadephotos.com)
Find a location that makes you feel comfortable.
Most photographers will suggest a few different locations for your engagement session, but Emily and Justin always recommend skipping the over-populated areas. "Opt for a gorgeous, more isolated area (which your photographer will probably suggest). You'll be less nervous without strangers around and you won't have people in brightly colored tourist outfits in all of your images," Emily says.
Emily explains that couples almost always say, "We're so nervous!" and five minutes in could not be more relaxed. "The key is to keep it real. Try not to have an idea of how you want your session to go," Emily says. One way she hopes you won't prep: By overdosing on Pinterest and other engagement sessions. "Just let your photographer guide you and help you be in the moment. You can't overdo 'you' and those real moments are always timeless."